Norway: iTMS DRM under scrutiny, Microsoft DRM next

“We’re not specifically targeting iTunes Music Store DRM – MSN Music was explicitly mentioned in our original complaint together with CDON.com, Music Online.no and Prefueled.com and we are asking that their conditions also are evaluated against Norwegian law. This has been in there since the original filing”, says Torgeir Waterhouse, senior advisor to the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet),” Tatle reports.

“Since, however, iTMS is the leading store for online music also in Norway, iTMS has been picked to test the waters of the Norwegian Marketing Control Act; legislation passed by the Norwegian Parliament in the spring session of 2005 where consumers can legally break copy protection of CDs to play them on ‘relevant equipment,'” Tatle reports.

More information in the full article here.
Well now, this is much more interesting with this information. It’s good to see the whole concept is being challenged, not just Apple’s iTunes. We hope this will be a good test to see if Norway finds that consumers can legally break iTunes Music Store’s FairPlay DRM to play the songs that they supposedly own on “relevant equipment.” Once you’ve legally bought it once, you should be able to play it on any of your devices, right?

FYI, if iTunes did not offer a way to strip off the DRM by default (not counting third-party apps) by burning an audio CD, we’d have a major problem with iTunes and the iTunes Music Store. As it is, we think iTunes DRM is pretty well balanced and doesn’t overly complicate things for those wishing to use what they’ve purchased in legal ways. Yes, we would prefer that nobody ever pirated music and that DRM was deemed unnecessary, but that’s simply not the case. Overly-restrictive DRM on legally-purchased content is an issue upon which to keep a watchful eye.

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Related articles:
Apple’s iTunes Music Store faces fresh legal attacks from Norway and Sweden – June 09, 2006
Norway complains about Apple iTunes Music Store – June 07, 2006
Consumer Council of Norway files a complaint regarding Apple iTunes Music Store’s terms of service – January 27, 2006
Apple’s vs. Microsoft’s music DRM: whose solution supports more users? – August 17, 2005

26 Comments

  1. Majikthize: What I meant was “a government that actually represents the will of its citizens.”

    Are you currently aware of any government that has that attribute? I’m not talking about the claims made by their politicians, I’m referring to what the government actually does!

  2. [rant]
    I’m tired of this DRM protest shit. Music is never going to be released for free by companies who spend millions on the business.
    Get over it already.
    And then look at other DRMs and you’ll realise Fairplay is the least restrictive DRM you’ll likely come across.
    And if you don’t like DRM, go buy the flippin CD, and STFU.
    [/rant]

    There, i feel better now….

    MW: Justice – hah, how ironic….

  3. Clarification –

    It’s a matter of degree. The US has been better and it’s been worse. I think we all know which way it’s been going in the past few years, especially in the area of consumer protection.

  4. DRM is a necessary evil and Apple’s does almost unnoticible harm. If you don’t own an iPod you have the option of acquiring music from a number of sources other than ITMS. If you DO have an iPod you STILL have the option of acquiring music from a number of sources INCLUDING the best online store: Apple’s. The big question is can I take my ITMS purchases and listen to them via a device other than those sold by APPLE. The answer is an unequivical YES. I don’t even know why this is an issue. The only people complaining have to misrepresent reality (LIE) to make it seem like a problem. The Scandinvian countries are marvelous places and the people are wonderful ( I am in Denmark now). They are not, however, immune to mistakes in policy-making (just ask the guy on the street). Governments should not regulate what will sort itself out through normal market pressure. And DRM is one of those things that will sort itself out. Apple’s ITMS and Fairplay are the world’s dominate digital music store because, in reality, the DRM does NOT interfere in the average user’s enjoyment or fair use of the product. That’s it… bottom line. When someone does it better, they will take market share from Apple. But history shows that no DRM invites piracy, and when the money stops flowing the whole structure of music production will fail and the question DRM will be moot because no one will make the effort and expend the money to make and distribute music recordings. It’s really quite simple, but there are those that think Utopia is a real possibility. It’s not.

  5. Its the government that thinks they need to “protect” the citizens from doing something STUPID, like buying a song from the Apple iTunes store, that you need to watch out for.

  6. Being Norwegian (and also named Bjørn!), here’s my take:

    As mentioned, the Consumer Council, in their original complaint that they asked the Ombudsman to review, also suggested that the he should look into the other music stores as well. But in this letter of complaint, it is only the terms of iTMS that are explained and criticized. The other music stores are only listed at the end of the letter.

    The Ombudsman reviewed the compaint, and wrote the now (in)famous letter to iTunes. There’s no mention of any of the other music stores in the letter, or in the shorter statement at the Ombudsman’s website.

    The consumer authorities have unfortunately left the clear impression that only Apple is to blame, and that it’s Apple who should change their terms, open up their technology etc. The stuff about the other music stores is barely mentioned at all.

    There are some odd claims. The council says: “The sole purpose of this type of DRM is to lock consumers into buying products from a dominant market player.”

    Hello?? When Apple decided to use Fairplay, it was because they needed a DRM to sell music online (blame the record companies). Of course they didn’t want MS-DRM, and why should they have been forced to use it? And it’s not even available on OS X.

    Apple had their own Mac users in mind, fearing they would be left out in the cold. So they made their own format, based on the MPEG-4 industry standard, adding their own DRM, which is better suited to Apple’s view of the online music store business (read: simplicity).

    Besides, the other devices haven’t been made with the MPEG-4 in mind anyway, their producers wanted to use WMA. So how are they supposed to play AAC? I guess by exporting from AAC/Fairplay to WMA/MS-DRM from iTunes? Which can’t be done on OS X, only Windows users are so lucky!

    Is it even possible to keep the restrictions intact in moving in the opposite direction, from MS-DRM to Fairplay? MS-DRM has more ways of restricting the use than Fairplay.

    According to the council and the ombudsman, consumers “are free to circumvent technical protection systems in order to play legally acquired works on appropriate players”. This is a twist the Norwegian lawmakers added when adapting the Copyright Act to the EU directive.

    However, according to a couple of lawyers writing in a business paper, this is not so simple. In the parliament debate last year, the current minister of cultural affairs, then a member of parliament, said that this “only applies for CD over to mp3”. He also said that the exception will not be valid for electronic files bought over the internet.

    The lawyers suggest clarifying the law. Also, the exception itself might be in violation of the EU directive, and is being looked into by a supervising organ.

  7. what ???
    No stupid French bashers today … when it’s Norway or Sweden, nobody comes saying they’re loosers.
    Actually the French Gov wanted the same thing, being able to use itunes purchased music anywhere.

    Don’t forget that Apple has invented and applied first great concepts, made some money for a while and then got wiped out by PC/windows/micro$oft… There is a high risk for this again, look what’s happening in video and HD DVD : micro$oft provides an easy kit to manage DRMs and Apple keeps everything “in house” with no Soft. Devlpt kits to offer to the programmers, so instead of inventing one, programmers go to the easy one : cro$oft DRMs…

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